MCLE Opinion 13

MCLE OPINION 13 - LEGAL ETHICS

The Virginia Supreme Court has required by Rule of Court that each active member of the Virginia State Bar complete a certain minimum amount of continuing legal education "in the area of legal ethics or professionalism." MCLE Regulations provide that an approved course or program may provide credit toward this requirement by addressing "topics embraced in recognized formulations of rules of professional conduct or codes of professional responsibility applicable to attorneys." The board has encountered instances where it has received applications for approval of ethics credits for topics which do not objectively pertain to or specifically address rules of professional conduct or codes of professional responsibility specifically applicable to attorneys.

The following are examples of some of the topics and types of courses which DO NOT qualify for ethics credits:

Ethics in Government  Programs or components which, although presented to attorneys, focus on standards of conduct applicable to non-attorney employees including those dealing with:
  i)    the ethical standards applicable to governmental employees, federal legislators, governmental contractors;

 ii)    United States' employees' compliance with the President's Executive Order requiring a standard of conduct higher than the bare ethical rules might require;

iii)    educating the government attorney in these standards to enable that attorney to better advise a legislative and/or executive branch client on the applicable standards.

Medical Ethics  Programs or components which, although presented to lawyers, focus on:
  i)    an analysis or the application of medical ethics, "bioethics," or "biomedical" ethics;

 ii)    statutory options involving "living wills," the right to die, and "informed consent";

iii)    educating the lawyer in these subjects to enable that lawyer to better advise a client.
    

Ethics of other Professions  Programs or components which although presented to lawyers, focus on:

  i)    an analysis or the application of ethical standards governing members of a profession other than the legal profession, e.g. ethics for museum administrators, accountants, realtors, architects, engineers, chemists, etc.;

 ii)    educating the lawyer in these standards to enable that lawyer to better advise a client on the applicable standards.

Business or Corporate Ethics  Programs or components which, although presented to lawyers, focus on:

  i)    an analysis or the application of ethical standards appropriate for executives, corporate officers and employees;

 ii)    educating the lawyer in these standards to enable that lawyer to better advise a client on the applicable standards.

Rules of Procedure, Rules of Evidence and Litigation Tactics  Programs or components which focus on rules of procedure or rules of evidence, unless the focus of the programs or components also provides a substantial treatment of applicable rules of professional conduct or codes of professional responsibility. In particular, malpractice prevention programs or components which focus primarily on malpractice litigation, tactics, or strategy will not be approved for ethics credit.

Programs or components devoted to or including these topics may meet the requirements for general MCLE credit. The board is of the opinion that such topics do not fulfill the requirement for continuing legal education in the area of legal ethics or professionalism. The board will therefore not assign ethics credits to such topics.

[Paragraph 17.C.(1) of Section IV, Part Six, Rules of the Supreme Court of Virginia and MCLE Regulations 101(q), 101(r) and 103(d)].     (12/92)
Amended effective 7/1/07
Amended effective 11/1/09


 

Updated: Oct 29, 2009